Adaptations of popular television shows into films are a reasonably rare occurrence these days, but even rarer are television films that later get a theatrical release. This was however the case for the Red Riding trilogy produced by Channel 4 that was so acclaimed that all three films were released in theatres in the US in 2010. Based on the four novels by David Peace, the Red Riding film trilogy brought together some of the UK’s best character actors in a neo-noir crime investigation thriller set over the course of three specific years. The second of the trilogy is set in 1980.
Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) is brought in to the Yorkshire police department to ‘clean-up’ the investigation of the newly dubbed ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ murders. His role is to go over all the evidence that has been obtained again and see if he can find a link and finally solve the murders. This brings him into contact with Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) and as he digs further into the cases he uncovers more and more police corruption, some that goes all the way to the top.
Like the first instalment Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, this 1980-set neo-noir is happy to portray Yorkshire as a sullen, downbeat, atrophied place. There is no beauty in the atmosphere and it could just as easily be a post-apocalyptic wasteland as an English town and country. Within this distopia lie a host of villainous and untrustworthy collection of individuals. There are very few actually ‘good’ people shown, and those that are often find themselves at the wrong end of a murder investigation.
The cast is uniformly strong as was the original, this time with the added benefit of replacing former lead Andrew Garfield with the force of nature that is Paddy Considine. The BAFTA-winning star is supremely excellent as the doubting, put-upon journeyman police officer who keeps getting beaurocratic red tape wrapped around his attempts to sort out the investigation division. Without his commanding presence, Red Riding: 1980 would have struggled to convince, but he brings a small glimmer of hope that everything is going to work out.
The plot is stronger and less convoluted than the original, and despite the obvious televisual direction style, is as moody, depressing (in a good way) tension-filled as any neo-noir in recent memory.